How Fast Can You Go In 4 High?

By Derrick •  Updated: 11/23/23 •  10 min read

Every driver should know when he can drive in 4WD High. It is also essential to see the impact of driving at maximum speed in the 4WD-Hi mode for safety and engine care. We may face various conditions where we may be moving very fast when going. At the same time, we will have to be highly cautious in other cases. Considering all these factors, how fast can we go in 4WD-Hi?

The manufacturers of these cars recommend that in the 4WD-Hi mode, we should not exceed 55 MPH. When you put the 4-wheel drive system in High mode, the vehicle can go fast but not too fast. The 4WD-Hi mode provides more traction on snowy, rocky, muddy, and icy roads.

The 4WD-Hi mode is the most frequently used over other modes because we often need to travel on snowy roads, and the 4WD-Hi mode is ideal for this type of route. Now that we have a little more information. Let’s go into more detail on the definition of the traction systems, on-road driving with 4WD-Hi, when to use one system instead of another, and other topics of interest. So please feel free to continue reading the following sections.

What Are The Different Traction Modes?

When we have a 4WD vehicle, we must understand the function of each of the traction modes we can find. Having smooth and safe driving is knowing which conditions are more appropriate to use one mode instead of another. That is what we will review below.

4WD-Hi Mode

In 4WD-Hi mode, you will be able to travel using all gears as standard. It is appropriate to use this setting when we are on the highway and the roads are rough, whether wet, snowy, or icy. This mode is also suitable on flat roads with loose gravel, mud, or compacted sand. In short, you will use this setting to travel at average speeds when you need additional tractive effort.

4WD-Lo Mode

The 4WD-Lo traction setting is for driving in difficult conditions such as deep sandy terrain, snow, mud, traversing water, climbing rocks, and going up or down hills. When you use this setting, you should maintain a low speed, as it decreases the road holding ability, but on the other hand, it is a more torquey grip. This mode is ideal for maximum traction and power; the wheels will spin much slower than the 4WD-Hi setting.

Automatic Four-Wheel Drive (AWD)

This setting represents a modern “set it and forget it” convenience. The vehicle monitors the tires’ traction while on two wheels in this setting. It then can automatically switch to four-wheel drive when it senses that one of the wheels is starting to slip.

You can use this mode setting when driving on roads with variable conditions, such as patchy snow and ice, or in any other situations where the tires may slip suddenly.

There are other types of AWD, part-time or automatic, and full-time.

How Fast Can You Drive When In 4 Wheel Drive High?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, experts recommend not exceeding 55 MPH in 4WD-Hi on surfaces with low traction. We should only activate dual traction when the surface traction is very low.

We must mention that driving in 4WD-Lo mode should not exceed 10 MPH. If you can safely drive faster than 10 MPH in 4WD-Lo, it is best to switch to 4WD-Hi.

Factors Affecting Speed in 4 High

Numerous elements come into play when determining how fast you can safely travel in 4 High. Your vehicle’s engine power is a critical factor; more horses under the hood mean better performance at higher speeds.

Gear ratios also significantly influence speed, impacting acceleration and fuel efficiency. And don’t forget about your tires—size and type are essential for maintaining grip and stability on various surfaces.

Ready to dive into the details? Keep reading to understand the full picture of speed dynamics in 4 High mode.

Engine Power

Engine power is a crucial factor that determines how fast you can cruise in 4 High. Vehicles with more robust engines will typically reach higher speeds without stressing the mechanical components, allowing for quicker acceleration and better overall performance.

On the other hand, driving at high speeds in WD with less powerful engines might overwork the system, leading to potential damage or reduced control.

To maintain safe operating speed in WD high, it’s essential to consider engine capacity along with vehicle load. Heavy cargo can strain even a strong engine and affect your speed on various terrains.

It’s not just about raw horsepower – efficient use of power ensures your four-wheel drive responds well when you’re offroad and need that extra push to navigate challenging conditions effectively.

Gear Ratios

Gear ratios play a crucial role in determining how fast you can travel in 4 High. They are the gears inside your vehicle’s transmission that dictate how power from the engine is distributed to the wheels.

A lower gear ratio means your wheels turn slower but with more force, perfect for tough terrain where control and torque matter most. On the other hand, higher gear ratios allow wheels to turn faster, increasing speed but reducing power – ideal for smooth roads.

Choosing the right ratio is key to balancing speed with performance. In 4 High, vehicles often use an intermediate gear ratio that provides enough power for off-road conditions while still allowing for a decent driving speed on stable surfaces.

This balance helps maintain control and performance without sacrificing too much acceleration or putting undue strain on your vehicle’s systems during high-speed travel.

Tire Size and Type

Choosing the right tire size and type is crucial for maintaining control and performance when you drive in 4 High. Larger tires can increase ground clearance, allowing your vehicle to handle rougher terrain more effectively.

However, they could also make it harder to gauge your true speed and may require more power from the engine, potentially limiting how fast you can go.

The type of tire you select plays a major role in traction and handling. All-terrain tires are designed to balance off-road capability and on-road manners. Mud-terrain tires offer superior grip in loose or muddy conditions but typically reduce fuel efficiency and road comfort.

Always ensure that your choice aligns with the driving limits in WD high for both safety and optimal vehicle capabilities under various conditions.

What Happens If You Drive Fast In 4WD-Hi?

When we select the 4WD-Hi mode, there are specific rules that we must respect. Such as always driving on a low traction surface and maintaining a maximum average speed of 55 MPH. We will guarantee safety as long as we adhere to these conditions. Still, if we decide to drive fast, we must know that there are safety risks that we will be facing unnecessarily.

On the road, we may encounter certain uneven surfaces or environments where we will resist driving at 55 MPH. However, we must be aware that there are factors beyond our control that we must take into account:

  • A tire blowout.
  • Curves that suddenly appear.
  • Wild animals that cross the road.
  • Sudden changes in terrain conditions.
  • Deep holes covered by snow, leaves, or puddles of water.

When driving at speeds above 55 MPH, we will not have enough time to stop the vehicle or slow down enough to avoid all obstacles on the road. Driving at high speed in 4WD-Hi mode affects several aspects of driving, which we will discuss below.

Consequences On Braking

The braking distance increases significantly when driving in 4WD-Hi mode on slippery surfaces with low traction. This fact means that we must considerably adjust our driving style to compensate for the time it takes to brake.

Cornering And Its Consequences

When cornering on low-traction surfaces in 4WD-Hi mode, we must consider the dynamics of the car and the changes it undergoes in this type of handling. The braking and acceleration change when driving in curves, so going at high speeds in 4WD-Hi is not convenient.

When driving in curves, we are obliged, for our safety, to slow down, avoid hard braking and aggressive cornering, especially in the 4WD-Hi setting. The vehicle may lose traction at high speed and leave the road, causing an accident.

Consequences On Maneuverability

In low traction surfaces, the vehicle’s maneuverability decreases significantly. The steering will no longer be sharp and correct, and the car will not respond in time when turning.

Can You Use 4 High On The Highway?

Technically, it is possible to use 4WD on the highway, but if we do so, we must make sure it is the 4WD-Hi mode. Using 4WD-Hi will get all the traction we need to get to our destination at a reasonable speed and safety.

On the highway, be sure to set the 4WD-Hi mode so that you can drive at average speeds on this type of terrain. When you try to use the 4WD-Lo mode while driving on the highway, what will happen is that you will reach high RPM but without gaining speed. This condition is not healthy for your vehicle’s engine.

However, it is essential to know that highway driving in these 4WD modes has specific considerations to take into account:

  • Four-wheel drive increases traction, essential when driving on snowy or wet highways or moving heavy loads on steep grades. These are the conditions that warrant the use of four-wheel drive.
  • Although it is possible to drive in 4WD on any paved highway, 4WD is not the ideal mode to use when we are on flat, dry, level highways. The explanation for this is that we will be locking the differential between the wheels, so all four wheels will be spinning at the same speed.
  • This situation is extremely dangerous when moving at high speed on the freeway and trying to turn the car. A turn requires the wheels on each side to move at different speeds.
  • In conclusion, while it is true that you can use the four-wheel-drive in bad weather on the freeway, it is not the best idea to use it in good weather conditions. Also, when you have to engage four-wheel drive on the highway, be sure to use the 4WD-Hi mode. Driving in 4WD-Hi at high speed on highways is only safe on straight roads; any high-speed turns are hazardous.
  • When driving in adverse weather conditions, experts recommend turning off the traction control, as it can be beneficial when trying to turn in the snow. If the vehicle model does not have traction control, increase the speed to have more momentum. However, you should not go too fast because you could lose control.

One Final Thought On How Fast You Can Go In 4WD-Hi

Every 4WD driver should know when to engage 4WD-Hi. This knowledge about the proper speeds for 4WD driving is critical to avoid accidents and severe damage to the vehicle. The best recommendation is not to attempt to drive above 55 MPH when in 4WD-Hi mode.


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